Does colostrum have to be stored in a syringe?

Colostrum is the first milk a mother produces for her newborn baby. It is rich in antibodies and nutrients that provide a vital boost to the baby’s immune system in the first few days of life. Knowing how to properly store colostrum is important to preserve its nutritional and immune-boosting properties.

Quick Answers

– Colostrum can be stored in syringes or other small storage containers like jars or bags.

– Storing colostrum in small amounts makes it easier to thaw just what you need for each feeding.

– Syringes allow for accurate measurement of colostrum amounts.

– Colostrum should be frozen as soon as possible after collection.

– Frozen colostrum can be stored for up to 6 months in a regular freezer or up to 12 months in a deep freezer.

– Thaw colostrum in warm water or by gently rolling the container between your hands.

– Avoid microwaving colostrum as this can destroy valuable components.

– Only thaw as much colostrum as needed for each feeding.

– Once thawed, colostrum should be used within 24 hours.

– Any bacteria present can multiply rapidly at room temperature.

– Proper storage is key to preserving colostrum quality and benefits.

Why Store Colostrum?

Colostrum is produced by the mother during pregnancy and in the first few days after giving birth. It is especially concentrated on the first day after delivery. After that, colostrum gradually transitions to mature breastmilk over the course of a few days.

Colostrum contains high concentrations of nutrients, antibodies, and immune factors that are extremely beneficial to newborns. Consuming colostrum gives babies a boost to their immature immune system and promotes healthy development.

However, babies have very small stomachs when they are first born. They may only take in a few milliliters of colostrum at each feeding. Many mothers produce more colostrum than their baby needs in those early days. Pumping and storing that excess colostrum gives them a valuable reserve to draw from later.

Having stored colostrum can be very useful if:

  • The baby needs supplementing due to low blood sugar, dehydration, or slow weight gain
  • The mother has delayed milk production
  • The mother is temporarily unable to breastfeed due to illness or medication
  • The baby is unable to effectively nurse or transfers milk poorly

Having a stockpile of colostrum in storage ensures the baby continues getting this precious fluid even when the mother cannot actively express colostrum herself.

Storing Colostrum

Colostrum can be stored in a variety of small containers including syringes, bottles, jars, or bags. However, guidelines recommend storing colostrum in 1-3 mL amounts. This makes thawing easier since you only need to thaw the exact amount required for a feeding.

Syringes are a convenient storage option since they already have volume markings on them. This allows you to know precisely how much colostrum has been pumped and feed accurate amounts to your baby. The steps for storing colostrum in syringes are:

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly before pumping
  2. Collect the colostrum by hand expressing into a clean container
  3. Pour the colostrum from the container into the syringe without introducing bubbles
  4. Cap the syringe tip tightly
  5. Label syringe with date and time pumped
  6. Place syringes in ziplock freezer bags
  7. Freeze bagged syringes flat in the refrigerator or freezer as soon as possible after collection

Other suitable storage containers include:

  • Small glass jars or plastic bottles – pour measured amounts into the container
  • Breastmilk storage bags – express colostrum directly into bag

Regardless of storage method, the key points are to store colostrum in small, measured amounts of 1-3 mL. And get it into the freezer as soon as possible after collection.

How Long Can You Store Colostrum?

The storage duration for pumped colostrum depends on the temperature it is kept at:

  • Refrigerator (5°F / -15°C) – store for up to 2 days
  • Freezer section inside refrigerator (0°F / -18°C) – store for up to 3 months
  • Standalone freezer (0°F / -18°C) – store for 6-12 months

The colostrum can be frozen for the maximum recommended duration as long as the freezer maintains a constant temperature. Fluctuations in freezer temperature can shorten safe storage times.

Long term storage in deep, standalone freezers is recommended for having colostrum reserves available for up to one year. This gives you access to colostrum even after your production transitions to mature breastmilk.

Thawing and Feeding Colostrum

Only thaw as much colostrum as your baby needs for a single feeding session. Leftover thawed colostrum needs to be used within 24 hours.

To thaw frozen colostrum:

  • Hold syringe under warm running water
  • Place syringe or container in a bowl of warm water
  • Gently roll plastic storage bag between your hands

Avoid using the microwave as it creates hotspots that can destroy valuable antibodies and nutrients in the colostrum.

Check temperature before feeding to your baby. It should be body temperature or at least warmer than refrigerator temperature.

To feed thawed colostrum, you can:

  • Transfer to a spoon for spoon feeding
  • Draw up in a syringe and feed directly into baby’s mouth
  • Transfer to a bottle for bottle feeding

Discard any thawed colostrum that is left over after a feeding. Do not refreeze or save for later.

Key Takeaways on Storing Colostrum

Here are the key takeaways on proper storage of colostrum:

  • Store colostrum in small amounts (1-3 mL) like syringes or jars
  • Refrigerate for up to 2 days, freeze for up to 6-12 months
  • Freeze as soon as possible after pumping
  • Thaw only what’s needed for a single feeding
  • Thaw by gently warming in warm water or rolling between hands
  • Avoid microwaving colostrum
  • Use thawed colostrum within 24 hours
  • Discard any leftovers after a feeding

Proper storage helps protect the immune factors in colostrum so your baby continues to get the benefits. Storing in small amounts makes it easier to thaw and feed just what your baby needs.

While syringes work well, you can also store measured amounts of colostrum in jars, bottles or bags. The key is freezing it as soon as possible after pumping, and avoiding heat damage during thawing.

Having a stockpile of frozen colostrum gives you peace of mind knowing you have reserves to feed your baby even if you are temporarily unable to express colostrum yourself.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is colostrum so important?

Colostrum contains high concentrations of antibodies and immune factors that provide a vital immunity boost to newborns. It also provides nutrition, growth factors, and digestive enzymes to promote development.

Does colostrum need to be refrigerated before freezing?

No, freshly pumped colostrum can be frozen right away without refrigerating first. Get it into the freezer as soon as possible after pumping.

Can I combine colostrum from different pumping sessions?

Yes, you can combine colostrum from multiple pumping sessions in one storage container. Just make sure to cool it in the refrigerator first before adding fresh, warm colostrum.

Does freezing destroy antibodies in colostrum?

Freezing does lower the concentration of some antibodies like IgA. But many antibodies and immune factors remain intact and functional after thawing.

Can I freeze colostrum in a regular ice cube tray?

Ice cube trays are not recommended as colostrum sticks to the tray making it hard to get out. Use containers designed for breastmilk storage instead.

Is it safe to refreeze thawed colostrum?

No, thawed colostrum should not be refrozen. Refreezing increases the risk of bacterial contamination.

Table Summarizing Colostrum Storage Guidelines

Storage Container Storage Duration Storage Temperature
Refrigerator Up to 2 days 5°F / -15°C
Freezer compartment inside fridge Up to 3 months 0°F / -18°C
Freezer 6-12 months 0°F / -18°C


Storing colostrum properly ensures your baby continues to receive the maximum benefits. While syringes are convenient, any clean, food-grade container can be used. The keys are freezing quickly after pumping, thawing gently, and feeding thawed colostrum within 24 hours.

Having a reserve of colostrum takes the pressure off those first few days when mothers are still building a full milk supply. Consult with a lactation consultant to develop the right colostrum storage plan for your needs.

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